Watching on the Wall

“And Gideon came with the hundred men which were with him to the edge of the camp at the head of the middle-night watch, just when the guards were coming and going. And they blew the shophar and they shattered the jars which were in their hands.”

(Judges 7:19)

And you can see the tactic unfolding at this point. Gideon and his group have now crept up to just at the edge of the Midianite camp. There were three guard cycles through the night…an early one, a mid-night one, and then one just at the crack of dawn (1 Samuel 11:11; note also that Matthew 14:25 does speak of a “fourth watch,” but the four watch model is something learned later from the Romans). So, here you are, the guards are changing watch in the wee hours of the morning, it is still very dark and the vast majority of the Midianite army is fast asleep.

Yet, the silence of the night is broken by trumpet sounds and the crash of breaking pottery. You can almost imagine the Midianite soldiers scrambling about in the darkness and in the poor lighting. Unlike today, nighttime combat was quite dangerous in ancient times. You could not clearly see your foe and command control was seriously curtailed.

There is more to the strategy as we will see in the following verse, but there is a principle that I think can be applied to the church today. The Midianites had clearly grown overconfident and had allowed their sentries to be lax in their duties. Gideon and his soldiers were able to stealthily sneak up on the Midianite sentries under the cover of darkness…not once, but twice! They should never have been able to accomplish that, at least humanly speaking. Indeed, God’s hand must have been on the Israelites as they put themselves in position, but God’s hand was also on the Midianites to make them lazy and overconfident.

As I look at the landscape of America, I fear that the roles have reversed. The church has gotten too “comfortable” in our surrounding communities. We don’t pay taxes, the government usually leaves us alone, and many basically ignore us…that, at least is how we have perceived ourselves over the past 50-60 years or more. Yet, the culture has been slowly creeping up on our doors and changing the spirit of the age into one which we no longer recognize. Then, when things fall apart, the church is startled, caught off guard, and busy fighting with itself, let alone with the real enemy that has surrounded us. I wonder, what percentage of people filling the pews on Sunday could defend the faith we hold against the enemy. I wonder how many would even be able to recognize the enemy or the weapons that God has given us to destroy the enemy. And in that context, people wonder why the culture views the church as weak and irrelevant.

Yet, we have the Truth and the Spirit and if we will study to show ourselves approved, our enemies will flee from the Truth that is ours to wield in the power of the Spirit. One question remains: will we act?

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